The Republican Party of Minnesota finds itself mired in a caucus precinct data snafu, with statewide candidates alleging "fraud and errors," "egregious discrepancies" and possible "foul play" with caucus voting results.
The swelling political uproar stems from the Feb. 1 precinct caucuses, during which party caucusgoers were able to vote for their preferred candidates in a straw ballot. But 11 days later, questions begin to bubble up about the validity of the data being released by the party.
Michael Brodkorb, former former Minnesota Republican Party Deputy Chair, was among the first to draw attention to what he deemed a "severe problem." The data given to campaigns on Feb. 12 showed 35,196 attendees, but just 17,801 votes in the straw ballot.
This gap, Brodkorb reckons, throws the results of the straw poll (won handily, though still well shy of a majority, by Dr. Scott Jensen) into doubt, and has the potential to create issues during the local conventions that begin Friday. The straw poll results are no longer on the Minnesota GOP's home page.
Now, three gubernatorial candidates seeking the party's official endorsement are calling on the party to hit pause on the convention process until the Minnesota GOP sorts out the questionable data.
Dr. Neil Shah described the events as a "scandal" while calling for a forensic audit, with his campaign saying "evidence of widespread errors and manipulation renders the possibility of free and fair conventions to be very unlikely." He also accused a staffer on another campaign of admitting to omitting some delegates from the list sent to the state party, as well as "adding names to the delegate list for people who were not in attendance on caucus night."
Kendall Qualls, meanwhile, said the caucus data is "full of inconsistencies," adding: "The election data issues happening at MNGOP are inexcusable and open the door for a messy and unfair process where Minnesota voters question the outcome."
Mike Murphy called out "alleged foul play" in a tweet about the situation, saying anyone involved in "disrupting" the caucus and convention process "must be held accountable.
Kelly Jahner-Byrne, who is running for secretary of state, called it an "epic data management failure."
Some of the statements also point out that party members' repeated calls for "election integrity" fall flat if the Republican Party of Minnesota can't even verify its own precinct caucus data.
The state party is also recovering from the upheaval seen last summer, in which party chair Jennifer Carnahan resigned in the fallout from the arrest of GOP donor and operative Anton Lazzaro on child sex trafficking charges.
Brodkorb shared a statement from the Minnesota GOP Tuesday, in which new chair David Hann acknowledges there were "errors in the data released to campaigns over the weekend."
He said some of the blame lies with Basic Political Organizational Units that incorrectly included names of people who weren't at Feb. 1 caucuses, but had previously attended them. Hann said these errors weren't "intentional, malicious or related to any campaign."
The Minnesota GOP is correcting all the information, he said.
One of the groups called out in the state party statement, the Morrison County GOP, issued a rebuttal Wednesday, saying any discrepancies in its delegate list should be blamed on a "clerical error from the State Party."
The Morrison County GOP added it plans to postpone the county convention in order to "work through all of this."